Career Spotlight: Civil Engineer
Editors note: kellie is one of the sweetest people i know and also incredibly smart. she was telling me all about what she does one day over coffee and i immediately knew i wanted to have her talk about her career and why she chose it on here. so take it away kellie!
I was born and raised in Dillon, Colorado, a small mountain town in the Central Rockies. I grew up skiing, hiking, and doing all things outdoors. After graduating from high school, I moved to San Luis Obispo, California, to attend Cal Poly. I spent five years studying civil and environmental engineering and received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in June 2018. In college, I was a member of Engineers Without Borders, and traveled to Nicaragua twice. I also played for the Cal Poly Women’s Club Rugby team for a few years. After finishing college, I spent six weeks road-tripping across the Western U.S. before starting my job with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Originally, I chose to study environmental engineering because I love nature and wanted to do something to preserve it for the generations to come. In college, I learned that environmental engineering is not all about renewable energy and tree hugging. The more traditional fields of the discipline include water and wastewater treatment, air pollution control, and waste management. Towards the end of my college career, I developed an interest in wastewater treatment (not the most glamorous field, but someone has to do it…), and I spent a year conducting research on wastewater treatment technologies for my master’s degree.
As I was finishing school, an opportunity came my way to work for the Army Corps of Engineers, and I decided to take it. The position I was offered was for the hydrology section which is involved with studying watersheds and doing projects that reduce flood risk. Over the past few months, I have been working on levee improvement projects to increase flood protection around urban areas. What I like most about my job so far is how all of the work I do is focused on serving the public. My job is challenging at times but overall is very rewarding.
I also feel like I have plenty of opportunities to explore my interests and develop in my career. Being a woman in a male-dominated field like engineering can be intimidating. I am inspired by the women in leadership positions that I work with because they are the ones that truly pioneered the way for younger women like myself to have a career in engineering. I work alongside a number of young female engineers, and I am excited to see so many women in my generation go into STEM-related career fields. I have not been one for doing what is conventional like playing rugby or becoming an engineer, but at the end of the day, I enjoy what I am doing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.